Mitski Puberty 2

[Dead Oceans; 2016]

Styles: indie, isolation, happiness
Others: DDW, St. Vincent, Weezer

“Nobody is holding you here; remember that. Keep that in your mind.”
– Edward Albee, At Home at the Zoo

In Mitski Miyawski’s 2014 Double Double Whammy release Bury Me At Makeout Creek, themes of violent, terminal velocity love and perpetual childhood insecurity are sketched out in an outlook it bears: the adrenaline-pumping love of bodies falling from balconies and hearts hitting the ground, soundtracked by screaming guitars and self-affirmed, bat-held “I wanna be what my body wants me to be.” Its next chapter, on “First Love / Late Spring,” grows slowly, adding layers until the space is full, continuing to grow tall and gain nuances – a notion mainlined into Puberty 2.

Mitski’s 11-track Puberty 2 is her fourth full-length, second physical, and first through Dead Oceans, and it continues her infatuation with love, loneliness, betrayal, hunger, and the afflictions from both sadness and happiness. The last is given legs, arms, and the lot on opening song “Happy,” where the shaky, close-ear interaction manifests “happiness” into the living, breathing, and “leaving”: “When you go, take this heart/ I’ll have no more use of it when there’s no more you.” But whether first or last in the context of puberty, happiness takes a backseat (trainride, in this case) to other manifest sentiments.

Take, for example, “Fireworks” and “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”: “Fireworks,” a soft guitar build that repeats “cry, cry, cry” as the snare kicks in to replace the gunpowder raining from above; and “My Body’s,” which uses a grinding, fuzzed-out guitar as if Mitski were actively crushing the stars filling her body under the same breath of hopelessness or uncertainty — only “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” has taken the driver’s seat and is headed full speed into the dark, to see if a wall is really there or not.

While Mitski has never used many named character studies throughout her work, “Dan the Dancer” shines through. It reads like a more detail-specific song of her contemporary Alex G, story-boarding a withdrawn, cliff-hanging Dan who eventually triumphs: he climbs up, dances for one, sheds isolation. The happiness Dan feels is addicting, a sweet release of stress and pain, if just for a moment. But Puberty 2’s true hollow-bone crushing track is “Your Best American Girl,” an explosive anthem that builds in compounding motions and relentlessly powers through. It’s the disheartening song that Mitski told Elle was about “race and gender”: “I loved this person so much, and us being from different worlds kept on getting in the way” (a loved-in sentiment further explored in “I Bet on Losing Dogs” and its secretive affiliate “A Loving Feeling”). But the energy exuded in a “Say It Ain’t So”-esque flurry at the end of “Your Best American Girl” is the concrete connection she was trying to invoke, tearing and gripping like the average American boy and the average American girl in the song’s video, leaving Mitski to choose herself before leaving out the back door.

In the middle of “First Love / Late Spring,” Mitski sings “Wild women don’t get the blues/ But I find that lately I’ve been crying like a tall child.” Two years into the future and with two puberties down, Mitski may not be any taller or feel like any less of a child, yet Puberty 2 is a monument built high, visible to more and more. But as Mitski’s second elongated dip into teenage angst and childhood insecurity ends on closer “A Burning Hill,” she has come down the mount in a pure-white button-up, cleansed at least for the moment, promising to progress and “love some littler thing.”

Links: Mitski - Dead Oceans

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